Sunday, May 29, 2016

We’re inching up on Memorial Day, the official kickoff to summer—grilling season, backyard barbecues and family vacations. But Memorial Day is one holiday when every American should stop and give thanks to the men and women who served and died defending our country so that we can enjoy our carefree summer activities.

Patriotism really isn’t dead

We’re proud of what it means to be an American—a young upstart of a country recognized for its creativity, innovation and leadership. I believe that for each of us, there’s something that stirs a deep well of patriotism. For me it’s the Star-Spangled Banner at Giants games. More than 40,000 people looking out over San Francisco Bay and and that magnificent ballpark. For just a few minutes, there’s nothing more than the solidarity of being united in our love of baseball in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We get to the part about the “land of the free and the home of the brave” and I get a big lump in my throat. Every single time.

So here’s to the heroes, including the unspoken ones

My father—a medic during WWII. He must have seen nearly unimaginable horror, and yet he never—ever—spoke of it. We never knew where he served—he may have been in Africa or part of the horror of the Normandy landing. He never mentioned an experience his feelings or losing a buddy on the battlefield. Instead, he came home and got on with his life, building a successful business through hard work and sheer force of will. It was not just my own father—this entire generation of vets volunteered to serve their country, but when the war was over, they returned to civilian life without drama or fanfare. This was the generation that grew up during the depression, after all; they had never known pampering or excess.
My friend Chuck, an Army Ranger who won two Purple Hearts incountry in VietNam. Even as a young soldier, Chuck knew that this was just another politician’s war, and it was very, very wrong. He returned, not as a hero for sacrificing two years of his life, but to protests and derision. He put it all aside and had a long successful career with Pepsi Cola. It wasn’t until he retired that he began to experience the classic symptoms of what we now recognize as PTSD. He finds it curious and that at this time in his life he’s experiencing the nightmares that make him relieve the horrors of his battlefield experience some 40 years ago.

A salute to the endless number of service people who never made it home to rebuild their lives

The ones whose bodies were left on the bloody battlefields around the world. The wounded—those who have come home from our wars with debilitating injuries and somehow find the courage to reconstruct their lives. All in the name of patriotism.

A few things to think about this Memorial Day

  • Since the Revolutionary War, we have lost 1,010,485 men and women in combat.
  • The U.S. now has an estimated 1,473,900 men and women on active duty.  Nearly 10,000 are in Afghanistan and Iraq. 
  • Those with a flagpole will fly their flags at half-staff until noon.
  • President Obama just ordered 250 more special forces troops to Syria to help fight the Islamic State militants, bringing the total to 300.
  • Every Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time, Americans will take one minute to remember and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed to defend our country.
This Memorial Day, let’s all take a moment to honor those who have served our country with bravery, distinction and extraordinary selflessness.
Contact California Document Preparers about our legal services at one of our three Bay Area locations and schedule an appointment today!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Prenuptial Agreements: Not Just for Those with Significant Assets

We’re rapidly approaching wedding season, and these days, many Bay Area couples are including a prenuptial agreement in their wedding plans. While most couples enter a marriage with the intention of spending the rest of their lives together, half of all marriages in the US end in divorce. It may seem like sabotage to be thinking ahead to the dissolution of a union before it’s even become official, but many savvy couples are also pragmatists and know that a prenuptial agreement can serve as an insurance policy against a worst-case scenario.

A prenup can protect even the smallest savings accounts, and it can also protect against the limitless worth of future investments. Many people enter marriages at early stages in their careers. The median marriage age is 25 for women, and 26.8 for men, while careers are believed to peak at age 35. It is important that there is clear, written outline, before marriage, to the entitlements of money as it grows.

Let’s imagine this scenario of a newly married couple

The husband goes back to school to get an MBA, and his wife works hard to put her husband through school—a considerable contribution to the family’s future. With an MBA, the husband will be well prepared to jumpstart a successful business career which would not have been possible without his wife’s sacrifice and hard work. In a prenup, the wife can actually specify how much of the future earning of her husband’s career she is owed, and for how long. The husband can protect himself as well, by placing time, dollar or percentage limits on what he would owe.

Prenups can be customized and negotiated for each unique situation

Prenuptial agreements can actually leave both parties in a better situation than they would have otherwise been. Let’s suppose the wife has a substantial amount of family wealth, and the husband brings no money to the relationship. One way to structure the prenup would be to limit the husband’s claim on the wife’s family assets to a certain dollar amount that would allow him to continue his lifestyle while they were married. This is mutually beneficial; the husband can continue his lifestyle yet it limits his access to the family fortune.
Many of our prenup clients are older, they’ve established careers and this may be their second or third marriage. Their lives have become more complex; they’ve accumulated assets and have children and grandchildren they want to protect. There’s also the likelihood that their future spouse also has significant assets and children of his/her own. Creating a prenup to identity how those assets will be distributed in the event something happens to them is laying the foundation for good communication that will serve them well throughout their marriage.    

That difficult conversation about money . . .

One of our clients told us that the most difficult conversations she and her husband had were about money. A prenup forces couples to have a clear, straightforward conversation before getting married, discussing how much money each is bringing into the relationship and how much each expects to inherit. Other key parts of this conversation include identifying debts and financial goals. Many couples these days live together before marriage and are used to sharing expenses, but don’t really stop to address the larger economic picture. As with a business, each shares responsibility for their mutual long-term financial success, and a prenup is a good place to start.

Attorney review: A very good idea

Because a Prenuptial Agreement deals with the property rights of the marrying parties, it is advisable for both parties to have separate and independent attorneys review the agreement. Certain provisions, such as giving up the right to spousal support, are unenforceable if the party who later wants support (in a divorce proceeding) did not have an independent attorney explain the agreement to that party. California Document Preparers has relationships with excellent local attorneys and can provide referrals for the reviews. Combining quality legal document assistance with legal advice is an excellent use of your legal dollars.
Are you and your fiancĂ© considering a Prenup? We know this can sometimes be difficult for couples so we’re sensitive to their needs. Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area locations and schedule an appointment today! 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Living with Alzheimer’s: One Woman Finds New Purpose

End-of-life planning isn’t just about the legal documents we help our clients prepare. In our offices, there are many discussions that surface about related topics—disability insurance and the limits of Medicare. There’s a lot of confusion about hospice, and thanks to modern medicine, we are living longer lives, yet that quality of life may be threatened by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

One woman’s heroic journey with Alzheimer’s

The New York Times recently devoted a special section to Alzheimer’s. It’s a beautifully written story, Fraying at the Edges, by N.R. Kleinfield, that focuses on one woman’s heroic journey with this disease. New Yorkers Geri Taylor, 69, and her husband, 67, were recently retired, busy and active. Like many of us, Ms. Taylor had become forgetful; mundane tasks often confused her. One day she got off the subway and had no idea why she was there. She tried to pass off these increasingly frequent memory problems as inevitable infirmities of old age. But the day when she looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the face that was staring back at her was her come-to-Jesus moment. She knew she could no longer ignore what was happening to her mind. She confided her fears to her husband and made an appointment with a neurologist.
She was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a common precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Her doctor put her on Aricept, a drug designed to improve cognitive performance, and it seemed to sharpen her thinking. But as her doctor told her, she wasn’t just losing her memory, she was losing “executive function”—she was forgetting the sequence of steps in the processes of all the little things we do, the things we take for granted.

The disease became her new invisible companion

Alzheimer’s became the new lens through which she viewed and lived her life. Ms. Taylor had spent her career as a healthcare executive, so she had witnessed Alzheimer’s in action. Now she was living it. Yet Ms. Taylor was wired to absorb adversity, and she pictured Alzheimer’s differently, with gumption and defiance. And so begins her journey.

She began making lists to keep her on track

There were many things to address—whether they could stay in their NY apartment, should they sell their Connecticut home. When to tell their children and grandchildren. The economics—they were financially comfortable, but this disease can devour resources. They needed to think about updating their Living Trusts—while they still could. Her therapist advised against telling anyone—“friends will desert you”—so she dumped her therapist, shared the news with her friends and was rewarded with a range of responses.

A proactive approach to living with Alzheimer’s

She had always been interested in photography, and now she took a photography workshop and spent hours taking pictures of birds and other natural scenes. She was grateful for her large, supportive network of family and friends. Her husband overcame his initial reserve and their relationship became stronger than it had ever been, yet there was a bittersweet quality to their time together because they knew it could not last. Her iPhone became her best friend—endless notes to herself; calendar appointments were her salvation. Pictures with word associations to help her remember. With low expectations, she joined a support group and was delighted to find that these were the people with whom she could share her frustrations, victories and challenges. 

She noticed changes in her personality

She had to give up driving. She’d put on her makeup but forget an ingredient—foundation, blusher, lipstick—it was a sequence thing, and these were now often beyond her grasp. A new element of her personality emerged—she became friendlier, striking up conversations with strangers—she’d lost some of her former reserve.
Ms. Taylor was accepted into a clinical drug trial, though she didn’t know whether she’d be receiving the new drug or a placebo. She had her genes tested and learned that she’d inherited two copies of the ApoE4 Alzheimer’s gene—one from each of her parents. Her father had died of Alzheimer’s, and sadly, her son carried the gene as well.

Ms. Taylor embraces Alzheimer’s as her purpose, helps others live with the disease

Finally, Ms. Taylor and her husband prepared a presentation that they began delivering to audiences—with a very positive response. One person asked her how she dealt with the sadness. “We all face the same destiny,” she said. She had looked forward to a very different kind of retirement, having the time and resources to enjoy her family and friends, but now the time remaining to her had become very precious, and Ms. Taylor realized that helping others deal with the darkness of Alzheimer’s, helping them understand how to live with their disease—rather than simply preparing to die with it--had become her new purpose.
Have you been procrastinating about creating a Living TrustContact California Document Preparersat one of our three Bay Area locations and schedule an appointment today! 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Prince: A Legacy that Transcends his Music

We were still mourning the loss of David Bowie when we learned that R&B icon, Prince, had tragically died a few weeks ago in his suburban Minnesota home. A mysterious superstar, his popularity transcended generations and genres. But what a legacy he left behind. Over 30-plus years, Prince sold more than 100 million albums, won seven Grammies and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004—20 years after the soundtrack to "Purple Rain" was a multiplatinum success. 

Destined to become a musician

Most critics agree that we’ve lost a musical genius. The son of musicians, Prince became interested in music at an early age and taught himself to play the guitar, piano and drums. Considered a guitar virtuoso, a master of drums, percussion, bass, keyboards and synthesizer, he played 27 instruments on his debut album.

Irreverence for gender conformity that was years ahead of its time

As a performer, he was known for and understood the power of his flamboyant style and showmanship. He came to be regarded as a sex symbol for his androgynous, amorphous sexuality and defiance of racial stereotypes. Decades before transgender politics became mainstream topics, Prince was a living case study for life in the gray area that transcended strict labeling. “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something that you’ll never understand,” Prince sang on “I Would Die 4 U.” Few would fully grasp Prince’s fluid embodiment of both maleness and femaleness, and it was precisely this evasion of easy classification that made him endlessly fascinating. That we never quite knew what to expect was what made Prince unique and drew us to him.

Nurturing and supporting women artists throughout his career

The reasons that Prince counted many women among his fans may go beyond his music. Throughout his career, Prince respected women as artists, songwriters and performers—most unusual in the late 70s and 80s when he began his career. Prince championed and nurtured women musicians and populated his bands with female artists. He was a huge fan of Joni Mitchell’s, and he wrote countless award-winning songs—often under a pseudonym — for female artists, including Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, The Bangles and Chaka Khan.
Prince was a longtime supporter of Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal dancer. Copeland credits Prince’s influence and steady guidance for helping her evolve as an artist, and they collaborated many times over the years. "He pushed me as an artist in ways I hadn't been before," she said. "In ways that the ballet world doesn't particularly invite."

Other little-known facts about Prince

  • Prince wrote his first song at 7, a total commercial flop.
  • While larger in life in many ways, Prince was diminutive--just 5’2, he was a talented basketball player and once played for one of the best school teams in Minnesota.
  • Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness and refused to swear in his songs or regularly sing old songs that championed sexual freedom.
  • Prince wrote more songs than the very prolific Beatles, with a back catalogue that expands to more than 600 tracks.
  • Fans have been trying to work out the meaning of "purple rain" for decades. Some believe it’s about the end of the world, a theme Prince was interested in during the 1980s.

Prince’s relatives will be seeking control of the lucrative Prince brand

One source noted that Prince has produced a significant amount of music that lives in a vault and has never been released. It’s impossible to attach a price tag to this. But there’s another economic variable to consider--as we’ve learned from other musical superstars, their music grows in value after they’ve died. There is no question that the value of Prince’s music, like that of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and James Brown, will grow exponentially in death.

Prince was young, just 57, when he died . . .

We don’t yet know the cause of death, though there are rumors of ill health and substance abuse. Percocet seemed to be his drug of choice for treating the hip pain that was a consequence of years of strenuous performing; jumping on and off stages in high heels takes its toll. Without a Living Trust, Prince’s estate has now become part of the court-administered process of Probate, which is how his estate will be settled—a long, expensive and very public process. Sadly, a man who loved being center stage, will continue to be the focus of media attention—but this time he will be absent.
Have you been procrastinating about creating a Living Trust? Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area locations and schedule an appointment today!